Illegal immigrant population soars under Biden: government data

The number of non-detained illegal immigrants has soared under the Biden administration amid a historic crisis at the southern border, a new report released Friday shows, even as deportations have climbed but have failed to keep pace with the surge at the border. 

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) report for fiscal 2023 shows that the number of illegal immigrants on the non-detained docket has soared from 3.7 million in FY 2021 to nearly 4.8 million in FY 2022 to nearly 6.2 million in FY 2023. The non-detained docket includes illegal immigrants who have final orders of removal or are going through removal proceedings but are not detained in ICE custody.

The number on the detained docket has increased from 22,000 to over 36,000 in the same period.


The number of illegal immigrants being deported has increased, according to the report, but it is still a fraction of the increase in the illegal immigrant population. There were 142,580 removals in FY 23, up considerably from 72,177 in FY 22 and 59,011 in FY 21, but still down from the highs of 267,258 under the Trump administration in FY 19. ICE noted that the 142,580 removals were in addition to over 60,000 Title 42 expulsions in FY 23 at the border, some of whom it said would have otherwise been subject to deportation.

That’s at the same time as there were a record 2.4 million migrant apprehensions at the southern border. Those numbers have looked likely to continue, with Fox News reporting on Friday that December will shatter records for monthly encounters with over 276,000 encounters. Fox has previously reported that officials have said they are releasing around 5,000 illegal immigrants into the U.S. each day.

The agency also pointed to an increase in administrative ICE arrests, which increased by 19.5% to 170,590 in FY 23. It also arrested 73,822 illegal immigrants with a criminal history.

“ICE continues to disrupt transnational criminal organizations, remove threats to national security and public safety, uphold the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and collaborate with colleagues across government and law enforcement in pursuit of our mission to keep U.S. communities safe,” acting ICE Director Patrick Leichleitner said in a statement. “I am proud of the efforts of our more than 20,000-strong workforce who work every day to achieve their mission while also assisting homeland security and law enforcement partners with integrity, courage and excellence.”


The Biden administration significantly narrowed ICE enforcement priorities in 2021, limiting agents to arresting and deporting those who are either recent border crossers, national security threats or public safety threats. It came after the administration initially tried to slap a moratorium on all ICE deportations, but was blocked by a federal judge.

The administration says the narrowed priorities are necessary due to limited ICE resources, but Republican critics have claimed it is part of an open-borders agenda from the administration.

Separately, ICE only removed 212 unaccompanied minors in FY 23, despite the more than 137,000 arriving in FY 23; it’s a new low and down considerably from over 6,000 removed in FY 19.

Meanwhile, ICE deported 139 known or suspected terrorists in FY 23, a large jump in deportations of that population from 56 in FY 22 and higher than the numbers seen during the Trump administration as well, where 58 were removed in FY 19.


The new report is unlikely to satisfy Republican criticisms of the Biden administration, who see the enormous number of migrants being released into the U.S. and what they regard as insufficient efforts to either stop them coming in or deport them. Some Republicans have pushed for the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, while a number of Republican states unsuccessfully sued to block the administration’s narrowing of ICE priorities.

The White House has called for an additional $14 billion in border funding, which includes additional ICE detention beds and immigration judges. But it has been held up as Republicans demand stricter limits on asylum and the administration’s use of humanitarian parole. Some Republicans have called for the inclusion of the House GOP border security bill, which would restart border wall construction and significantly limit releases of migrants into the interior.

The administration has reportedly been open to a new Title 42-style removal authority and additional detention and removals as part of any agreement, but it is unclear if any such agreement can be reached and if it could pass both chambers of Congress.

Fox News’ Griff Jenkins contributed to this report.

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